Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Tort Reform: Fact or Fiction?

The American Association for Justice (AAJ) article appearing today in the Huffington Post calls the proposed tort reform measures what they really are: a DISTRACTION from the Health Care debate. When you examine each of the main reasons proponents of tort reform routinely give as facts, they turn out to be myths. The AAJ explains the key myths and facts:
Myth #1: There are too many "frivolous" malpractice lawsuits.
Fact: There's an epidemic of medical negligence, not lawsuits. Only one in eight people injured by medical negligence ever file suit. Civil filings have declined eight percent over the last decade, and are less than one percent of the whole civil docket. A 2006 Harvard study found that 97 percent of claims were meritorious, stating, "portraits of a malpractice system that is stricken with frivolous litigation are overblown."
Myth #2: Malpractice claims drive up health care costs.
Fact: According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the total spent defending claims and compensating victims of medical negligence was just 0.3% of health care costs, and the Congressional Budget Office and Government Accountability Office have made similar findings.
Myth #3: Doctors are fleeing.
Fact: Then where are they going? According to the American Medical Association's own data, the number of practicing physicians in the United States has been growing steadily for decades. Not only are there more doctors, but the number of doctors is increasing faster than population growth. Despite the cries of physicians fleeing multiple states, the number of physicians increased in every state, and only four states saw growth slower than population growth; these four states all have medical malpractice caps.
Myth #4: Malpractice claims drive up doctors' premiums.
Fact: Empirical research has found that there is little correlation between malpractice payouts and malpractice premiums paid by doctors. A study of the leading medical malpractice insurance companies' financial statements by former Missouri Insurance Commissioner Jay Angoff found that these insurers artificially raised doctors' premiums and misled the public about the nature of medical negligence claims. A previous AAJ report on malpractice insurers found they had earnings higher than 99% of Fortune 500 companies.
Myth #5: Tort reform will lower insurance rates.
Fact: Tort reforms are passed under the guise that they will lower physicians' liability premiums. This does not happen. While insurers do pay out less money when damages awards are capped, they do not pass the savings along to doctors by lowering premiums. Even the most ardent tort reformers have been caught stating that tort reform will have no effect on insurance rates.

As a medical malpractice and injury law firm, we see firsthand how often medical mistakes are made that destroy or permanently change lives. According to the AAJ article, over 98,000 people die every year from preventable medical errors, which is the same as having two 737 jets crashing every day for a whole year.

Instead of focusing on tort law changes that won't fix health care and won't reduce insurance premiums, let's make sure people aren't injured or killed in the first place. Not only will that lower costs, but most importantly, will improve health care for everyone.

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed as a result of a medical mistake or medical error, please contact us now for a free consultation about your potential claim.